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living eco-friendly on a budget + ​natural parenting + fresh takes on theology

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The Green Kitchen on Facebook Live (Notes)

If you caught my Facebook Live event on The Green Kitchen, here are some notes to help you connect with resources that I mentioned for the three topics I covered: composting the lazy way, incorporating reusable cloths around the house so you can ditch paper towels, and replacing non-stick cookware with healthier options. When there is a specific brand that I like, I’ve linked that exact one. When it’s whole a category I talked about, but I don’t have a brand preference, I’ve provided a search on Amazon for you based on some key words. Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links. If you click through and buy something, I may receive a small commission at no additional expense to you.

1. Composting the Lazy Way

Americans represent 5% of the world’s population but generate 30% of the world’s garbage. The average American throws away 4.5 pounds of trash a day. What we reduce and reuse can make a difference! Commercial recycling should always be a distant third to the other two R’s. However, recycling at home–like through composting–is an impactful, doable step.  

Previous Posts:

The book that got me started was Composting by Liz Ball. It is simple and non-gimmicky.


Products relating to composting if you don’t want to DIY:

2. Reusable Cloths

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Upcycling Craft: Wine Cork Boats

Years ago, I had a dream of making one of those cork boards made from wine corks. Since I don’t drink much wine, I asked others to pass on their corks. I’m about 9 years out from that request, and we might have enough wine corks to cover a wall. I went to Pinterest for ideas, and finally got to work. In honor of E’s third birthday, big brother V and I teamed up to make boats for the kids in our family plus the two local cousins. We thought these would be fun for the pool, creek, and bath. I am creative, but not really an artist and definitely not spacial, but these were doable and fun. We had a good time making them together.

Wine Cork Boat


Step 1: Hot glue a bunch of corks together. Lay them out first to make fairly even lines, I liked pairing them up  length-wise with glue and then gluing the “columns” together. Read more…


Give Clothes New Spunk with Layered Patches

I recently read my first-ever copy of Taproot Magazine, Issue 11: Mend, and was charmed by pictures of clothing patches in an article that made such a thing seem attractive and doable through layering fabric. I embraced the moment and grabbed some vintage fabric from my scrap box, thread and needle, and a pair of high-quality hand-me-down jeans that V (age 3.5) had deemed, “not very good, mama” and “only good for paint pants” because of a hole in the knee. In 3o minutes, I cut and hand-sewed two pieces of fabric together to create a whimsical layered patch and then sewed that onto the pants. I used a no-fuss whip stich and didn’t obsess over the details. Patches are about whimsy, right?    Hole and Patch Prep

The second patch took only a few minutes more now that I had my technique down. Best of all, because I didn’t have to mess with the sewing machine, I could take my project from dining room to back porch as the kids played nearby.Patch Pants Complete

The verdict? I think they look great, and V put them on right away and showed off his fancy pants all afternoon. With an adjustable waist and long length in these jeans plus a little brother who loves when big brother has outgrown something and it becomes his, hopefully we’ll still get years to come out of these pants, all because of a few scraps of fabric.

Patch Title


Plastic is Forever, Especially in the Ocean

Did you know that plastic never goes away? The plastic in that disposable fork from lunch will exist forever because I didn’t want to keep track of a real piece of silverware. Wow! All of that, just for one little meal.

Yes, plastic can be recycled if—IF—

  • facilities exist for recycling that particular type of plastic
  • there is a market for whatever that particular type of plastic can be recycled into (It is not a 1:1 re-creation: a plastic drink bottle cannot become a new plastic drink bottle.)
  • the item actually makes it to a recycling facility and not a landfill. (How much plastic actually gets recycled: think about broken toys, old synthetic fiber clothing, disposable forks, etc.)

But, recycling plastic is not a simple, clean solution. It takes tremendous energy in terms of shipping the recyclables, re-processing the plastic down, re-production of a new item, and re-shipping. Each one of those steps uses additional energy and creates additional pollution, all because I had a quick need.

Plus, what about the plastic that doesn’t get recycled, say—the pieces that blow out of my recycling bin or the tiny pieces (called nurdles) that slough off at the recycling plant and become litter? Ultimately, they end up in the ocean and then in us: storm drain to creek to river to ocean and then in a gyre, like The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Here, they may be mistaken for food by sea life or birds and consumed. They may become home to barnacles or other critters. In either scenario, they are then (plastic included) eaten up the food chain both in the ocean and on the land. Here is a 30-second clip from NBC that explains this phenomenon. I recommend the movie Addicted to Plastic (available on Netflix at time of writing) for more on garbage patches, plastic up the food chain, nurdles, and more.


While a garbage gyre  sounds big and overwhelming to me, it also seems abstract and distant. I don’t live near the ocean, I don’t eat much seafood. But then, the reality of plastic in our ocean came right to my feet. On this summer’s beach vacation we noticed quite a bit of trash wash up with the morning tide. It wasn’t enough that the beach looked junky (though this certainly is the case in other parts of the world, as in the video above), but it was enough that we couldn’t dig or walk without encountering little bits regularly. My kids commented on it, stepped on it, tried to play with it. Then today, I saw that creepy image I encountered while watching Addicted to Plastic:  a piece of foam that had been adrift long enough to grow some hitchhikers. Either this came in with the rough waves or a bird brought it to shore. While a great garbage patch sounds like a distant curiosity, the world is smaller and infinitely more connected that we’d ever like to think. 

Barnacles on polystyrene

Barnacles on polystyrene. (In the name of awareness, let me call out that additional plastic in this picture includes swimsuit fabric and the deck planks.)

This find led to some great conversations with our three-year-old about why we are selective about the things we bring into our home. While we have these conversations regularly, here was something tangible tied to living creatures to add to the observations we’ve made about mountains of waste at the county dump, the “stinky” (in his words) smell when we walk into a big box store filled with synthetic products, and the litter that we see in our local stormwater management streams.

To further our conversation, I decided to survey the litter that I found on a short stroll. Out of all of the trash, I found one thing that was a natural material: a peanut shell. Everything else was plastic. Take a look…did you know that all of these things are plastic? From balloon ribbon to a foam-coated coffee cup to a snack pack. Yes, even the cigarette butts contain plastic fibers. None of these things will ever biodegrade. Over time, they can break into tinier and tinier pieces of plastic that can flow into water or be eaten by animals, but they never go away. Plastic is forever.

Plastic From Beach


This week, is there one plastic-centric habit that you could change? Could you bring your own stainless steel cup to the coffee shop or  or bring some ceramic thrift store dishes into the office that you can wash after lunch each day? Could you drink a glass of water instead from of a one-use plastic bottle? (The most common kind of trash I encountered on the beach was plastic lids to one-use water bottles. Cigarette butts were number two.) Maybe your next step is to take an inventory of the plastic things around you that you didn’t even realize  were plastic. Could you make a buying plan for the next things you want to add to your home (e.g. choose a new shirt made of natural fibers rather than synthetics or purchase a used item so that you are not participating in the production of additional plastic items)? Another idea is to prioritize where plastic makes sense for your family and where other options could work. Contemplative, purposeful plastic use is possible for everyone, and a low-plastic lifestyle can be achieved through small steps across several years. What one thing can you do this week?



The Amazing, Versatile Canning Jar

As a family who minimizes plastics, glass canning jars come in handy in many ways in our house. They are affordable, versatile, and easily washable. It took us several years to gradually weed out our plastic containers and switch to Pyrex and jars, but now that is the primary way we store food.

I frequently get asked how often we deal with breakage.  I am, by far, our family’s worst culprit of dropping and breaking glass items.  In all honesty, these glass items are so sturdy that a drop doesn’t necessarily mean breakage anyway, especially on a more yielding floor like hardwood. 

As for the kids: yes, we let them use glass.  Usually they choose the stainless steel dishes and cups from the cabinet, but have glass in the mix, too. Both boys’ first drink of water was self-fed from a tiny open glass at 6 months old. Our kids are very careful with breakable items because they’ve seen the mess when accidents happen. (It usually happens when I am pulling something out of the fridge and a jar slips from my hand and lands on the tile kitchen floor. It stinks when something breaks and we have to sweep it up, but it doesn’t happen often.)

Without further ado, check out some of our favorite ways to use canning jars:
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The Paper-Towel-Free Kitchen

Some people call them unpaper towels; some people buy cute ones on Etsy. Some people ditch the paper ones because of cost; some people are convicted about the environmental impact of production, bleaching, shipping, or a lifetime in a landfill. Me? I offloaded paper towels years ago because of cost and environmental impact. As for what I call them, the unglamorous term rags comes to mind. But, really we call them kitchen cloths (to distinguish from the different colored ones we use to clean the bathroom or yet another set we use as diaper wipes). Our are free, because we made them from old, holey cotton t-shirts. If the old fabric doesn’t absorb because of years of being washed with detergent (this is called repelling), you can boil it to strip it and make it absorbent again. We love that these are free, no-sew, last for years, and then are compostable when done (or at least trashed without guilt). $0 for 5+ years of use is pretty awesome in my book! (I don’t count in laundry costs because we have to wash our kitchen towels and kids’ bibs anyway.)  So, how do you cut a shirt into rags? You certainly can just go at it with scissors any way you’d like, but here is how we do it:
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I love getting greeting cards in the mail, but when the holiday has passed I’m so the girl who lets the cards continue to sit on the mantle because I  don’t know what to do with them next. Tossing then in the recycling bin makes my heart bleed green a little bit; I’d like the ink and the card/pulp/tree to have more life than that before going through the energy-intensive recycling process. Plus, nowadays cards come with all sorts of neat little tchotchkes on them: foam pieces, ribbon, tiny plastic shapes, etc. So, I hoard the cards: first on the mantle, then in a pile or drawer, then–when I have a massive stash–I get so irritated that they all just go in the bin anyway.

Greeting Card Collages


But then, something wonderful happened…
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As we continue our gluten-free (GF), dairy-free (DF) trial, we’ve rediscovered our love for bulk cooking. Our general approach to cooking is that Dave and I each cook one bulk meal per week. We eat some that night, keep some in the fridge, and freeze some to create a versatile freezer rotation. By combining fresh meals, leftovers, and freezer meals, we can eat all week despite only cooking twice. It’s a great plan, but life with two tiny kids had made even that difficult. But, going GF/DF encouraged us to re-prioritize cooking. Our kitchen is messier now that we are back to cooking this amount, but we’re enjoying some yummy, healthy foods without breaking the bank.

Here’s what we’ve been doing: if we cook a whole chicken in the slow cooker, it gives enough meat for that night’s dinner as well as leftovers for chicken salads (like Asian Chicken Salad) and general lunch munching.

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10 Ideas for Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free Meals

We are six weeks into doing a gluten-free (GF), dairy-free diet with hopes of it addressing health concerns for three out of the four of us in the family. Several doctors had recommended this to me as part of an anti-inflammatory diet after V was born and my pelvic instability was so intense that walking, sleeping, moving, really anything and everything was difficult. I had enough going on between new baby, work, and extreme pain, and many medical appointments that overhauling our family’s eating seemed impossible. So, we shelved the idea. Fast-forward to now. As we’ve been looking at ways to address V’s eczema, both our holistically-practicing medical doctor and our chiropractor suggested that V cut gluten, dairy (or at least pasteurized dairy), melon, oranges, berries, and juices. After a month of planning time, we were finally ready to do it.

The first week was the hardest, as 2.5 year old V had some major behavior and sleep disturbances that might have been some sort of withdrawal or might have been normal 2-year-old stuff.  He also had the most dramatic benefit—his eczema cleared up rapidly, at least until we stupidly tried a new soap that caused a major flare-up. His healing from the flare has been much quicker than normal, though. But, he still does get new patches of dry, itchy skin.

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Using Thawed Eggs: Scrambled Eggs & Egg Hash

Awhile back, I wrote about how we got a great deal on farm fresh eggs and decided to freeze some for later. Well, we finally made it through the remaining fresh eggs on-hand and needed to dip into our freezer stash.

The first thing we noticed about the freezer eggs is that they defrost looking different than a fresh-cracked egg–the yolk is firmer and drier. The first time we defrosted some, we did it in a in an open bowl in the fridge overnight. We awoke to still-frozen eggs. We let them be for a few more days, by which point they were rather dry. They were usable, but not appealing. The second time, we used a non-air-tight container and let the eggs sit in the fridge for a couple of days. The were more moist this time, but still a bit off. The third time, we used an air-tight Pyrex bowl and transferred the eggs to the refrigerator mid-day. Ding, ding, ding! They ended up looking different than a fresh egg, but not unappealing.


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